For the details of why I am posting this here, you can review the last post.
Let’s keep this simple. I’m sharing a couple of poems of mine that were published three years ago by Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library. At that time I had no idea that I would someday be managing a small branch of the Osterhout, let alone become the editor-in-chief of this magazine, or any magazine for that matter.
So here’s one that is a response to a Billy Collins poem, even though his poem wasn’t really what I thought it was at first. I explain that in the video. When I met Billy Collins, the same year this video was recorded, it was at King’s College, just about a block from the main Osterhout branch, more than an hour from where I was living at the time. I asked him to sign next to his poem, and explained why.
He soberly asked, “Have you ever been kayaking on the Susquehanna?”
I replied, “Yes–”
He interrupted, “Then it doesn’t count.”
Simultaneously I said, “And it was a pleasure.” He laughed! I made Billy Collins laugh. That’s a nice memory. Maybe you’ll understand when you hear the reading. The text of the poem is below the video, and the original it was based on is here.
For the Man in the Museum
(After Billy Collins)
Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
Of fishing on the Susquehanna.
– Billy Collins
Kayaking on the Susquehanna—
now that’s a pleasure—in July or
any month lacking ice or floods.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a painting
of someone kayaking on the Susquehanna,
or any Pennsylvania waters for that matter.
My body feels it now, the ache that pushes
muscles as I row this rocking rhythm,
the meter of my stroke a little off—
two beats to port for each at starboard.
This fat little sit-on-top is made
for ocean waves, not upstream track.
But it’s the only kayak I own, so I row
on the Susquehanna, my backyard stream.
This far north of Harrisburg where West
meets North, the water’s deep, at least
when the dam is up. It’s inflatable, you know,
like the ego of poets who don’t know
about boats or bats that swoop past,
or fishing poles, or calloused hands,
curved paddles that dip and scoop,
and dribble Susquehanna into your lap.
It’s dusk; two ducks, and a loon flap past,
wings nearly tipping the waves. I tire and drift
the way we poets do when we’ve pushed
the pen too hard, and need to let
the stream find us again.
The slow current spins me facing downstream,
toward a low waxing moon, and even the rise
of countless mayflies doesn’t hide the glow
of pink sky above a bank of jumbled trees.
I imagine, as I glide toward shore,
a man in a museum, mind adrift,
gazing at a picture of a stranger
kayaking on the Susquehanna.
He senses something he has missed,
and thinks to write of his regret,
fleeting as a Pennsylvania rabbit,
briefly mourning a euphoria he’ll never know.
Shoulders sore, a setting sun, the moon
and first few stars hover over slow
roving water. Up ahead a bass jumps
for the day’s last fly. From far away I feel
his gaze. I pull my body up and out, and tug
the craft to ground, dripping the river behind me.
©2013 by David J. Bauman. First printed in Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library, spring 2013, issue no. 8.